Friday, August 10, 2007

The Persistence of Memory

"Leave the Capital"
Shaun Odell

My family owns a cabin in northern Michigan. We’ve owned it for about 100 years. In that time the cabin, has fallen into and been pulled out of various stages of disrepair and neglect.

Currently it is in need of updating and a little remodel--that plaid rug that was the height of cottage sophistication in the 50s just looks ugly and sad in the light of the 21st Century--not unlike Jacksonville’s art scene.

For the past several months, on various blogs and in various outlets, the state of Jacksonville’s art scene has been viciously, sometimes personally attacked. Several of the newer artists on the scene are loudly (and generally not without justification) proclaiming the need for a revolution, an upheaval, in short: drastic change. And they are right. The state of Jacksonville’s local art scene is often lamentable. Consistently we see our best and brightest leave for more fertile grounds.

However, that does not mean that there was nothing here before the current crop, and to consistently denigrate those how have held on for twenty-five years and more is an embarrassing tactic that serves no-one.

Recently, I got together with George Kinghorn to talk about how Jacksonville’s contemporary scene can evolve, as well as MOCA’s role in that evolution. First off, we talked about the perception that the museum doesn’t support local artists (expounded upon by commentators on Folio Weekly’s blog on June 12, 2007).

George said that the charge that MOCA--and by implication, Kinghorn himself--doesn’t support local artists simply isn’t true. He points to the uppermost gallery in the museum that primarily shows the works of emerging local artists. That is not to say that the museum space should be considered a venue that everyone is entitled to, however, it is a dedicated space. And the artists who have showed there do not include the so-called Jacksonville standards (and that changes depending on who you talk to); Tonya Lee, Ian Chase, Jay Shoots and currently, the works of five University of Florida MFA students have/are showing there.

In addition, George pointed to past workshops and portfolio reviews he’s coordinated “..teaching artists how to get their foot in the door, marketing essentials for artists; the nuts and bolts of it—the essential tools one needs to present to galleries and museums.”

He also said that in regards to submissions “the museum expects that things come in a unified theme, with a cohesive concept, and that it is polished.” Then George showed me a project that was left for him: a painted fruit crate, with a tacked together construction in the middle and a torn out sheet of notebook paper. Not exactly the stuff of art-historical legend.

Then we talked about the city’s need for a Contemporary Arts Center and the role that he is willing to, and excited about, playing.

“I am available for people to come an talk to. If a group has a unified theme, a mission…I will be happy to help them, to sit on a board, to offer practical advise,” he said. He also talked about the practical uses of a non-profit space, and how a group of 10 artists could band together and after one year, the group would be eligible for non-profit status.

George said that spaces like Eyedrum (in Atl.) the Dallas Center of Contemporary Art, serve as stepping-stones. Also a place to have classes and hold lectures…and mount juried shows, with an invited juror who could then explain his decision-making process. The “best in show” award could be a solo show in the space.

Lastly, we touched upon the recently stated urgent need for an MFA program here (an idea introduced over at JaxCal ). Which he wholeheartedly supported, echoing many of the thoughts expressed on JaxCal (i.e. intellectual growth, professionals vs. hobbiests…etc.).

All in all, it would seem that Jacksonville has been an “emerging art scene” for decades now. The question is how to move beyond our perennially fledgling stage. Maybe we should band together like my family is trying to…and at least paint the ideological walls white.


Times Union:




stephanie said...

as an nyc-transplant, i can whole-heartedly say how much i love jax. some things are lacking in terms of culture, but the more people i meet, the more i feel like jax is ont he verge of a serious art explosion. it sholdn't be attacked, but it should be cultivated....

Mark Creegan said...

I think the most realistic vision we can have for the Jacksonville art scene is one in which a local artist can begin to cultivate a practice. Sorry so vague but I think it boils down to that simple equation. Any effort to create exhibit venue or educational programs,etc. has to be directed toward the purpose of making it possible for an artist TO BE an artist.

So the question is what is needed for an artist to have a practice?
1) affordable and ample studio space
2) Several exhibition venues, especially those that allow for solo shows in raw spaces for experimental works (not necessarily "polished"- i suppose David Hammons would never get a show at MOCA Jax :) )
3) financial support thru an interested collector base and local govt programs
4) forum for ongoing discussion in the local newspapers and blogs of individual artist's work and exhibitions (if the Folio can provide a weekly page for video game reviews one would think an occasional art review would be possible)

And there are other aspects needed but the basic thing that needs to change is the overall attitude (and I see this among us artists as well ) that we are basically hobbyists doing something refined yet useless to society. If we begin to think of the artist as someone involved in an evolving process if investigation, that develops much like the practice of being a doctor or lawyer or plumber, THEN the effort to create an art center or an MFA program becomes more than just trying to be hip or cool or modern. People get excite about hip and cool for a nanosecond and move on to something else. The artist understands the long haul and the various myths of being an artist, but is usually the poorest and least connected to create the "scene" out of real, bread N buttah issues and needs.

So the artist steps lightly, or silently on tipppy-toes. When feeling bold, she steps up with hat in hand risking getting accused of selfish complaining or whoa-is-me whining. But she knows that whatever she asks for (from museum, from cultural council, from community) is not for her but for those coming after she is gone.

madeleine said...

Well spoken/written Mark; I was merely addressing one section of a subset of a group of artists/hobbyists.

You are right. I can barely think of one artist (say of our age) that if he/she manages to support themselves fully through their artistic endeavors isn't greeted with a mixture of congratulatory disbelief and suspicion.

Of course, it is well established that many artists must work in the so-called “real world” in order to fund their lives and efforts…it would be conducive to a greater intellectual and practical practice, to have a wider range of art-centric careers available (again the need for an MFA program raises its head).

As to the idea of a “polished” presentation, I think that George was referring less to any kind of “slick” or representational hucksterism, and more to a way that the art is discussed and presented…and yes, I could see David Hammons showing at MOCA…he clearly takes his work (if not himself) seriously, in addition to thoughtful--not perfect--craftsmanship and contemporary commentary, and that’s what I think the museum is looking for.

As for the need for ample and affordable studio space, Mark, you phrased it so elegantly that I don’t feel the need to compound your answer with my own tendency towards verbosity.

"I decided a long time ago that the less I do the more of an artist I am,"

-- David Hammons 2002

Byron said...

Why do you quote George as if that is needed? Nothing he speaks of is a new concept. Folks have been talking about these core concepts for years I'm sure.

Why hasn't George joined and participated in other local blogs to help the scene? Especially since was started because of the Folio article about him?

Too busy I suppose? But aren't we all?

Madeleine who cares if an artists is new to Jax? If they have good points and have seen how other smaller cities do business I'm all for their input. Much better than staying silent and not trying to improve things.

I'm all for being active and making changed. I can't imagine having a talented writer like yourself pass my opinions on to the public.

If George really wanted to make change he would participate himself. As always it's an open invitation.



jim draper said...

Good. I think your chat with George was a
great idea. Nice post. I have been emerging for
so long I am chaffed. Thinking about starting
Final Fridays at the studio, cleaning the big
space up and have monthly shows. What do
you think?

Byron said...

I reread this post and damn if my original
post wasn't a bit harsh. I'm all for working
with George if he's really into it.

I was just sort of saying that we can do it
without him. But I don't know if that was too
mature to say. I mean who cares. If he's down
with helping let's bring him on board.

madeleine said...


I think you’re in a unique position, similar to Rob’s down at Screen Arts. You can open a monthly, bi-monthly–whatevertime frame works for you–space pretty much free from market concerns. So you are going to be able to host shows that don’t fit into a commercially–driven space’s niche. You can also look beyond Jacksonville-based artists to regional and national folks.

*A note to readers: Byron and I had an off-blog conversation about the most recent post, “The Persistence of Memory.” Loosely it addresses the topics of the role of curator and of writers within an arts community.

Byron said...

definitely. I would love to see you do that Jim. I hear lotion is good skin problems. not sure though.

What is the role of the artist within an arts community Madeleine?

Byron said...

"is good for skin problems." I meant. dang typos...

Whata's interesting is that if anyone is interested they can be a curator also. That title doesn't need any sort of higher education degree to attain. Although it's a good thing to have one.

Being an arts writer I hear it's a good idea to have a great grasp of art history and grammar. I don't have that as you can see. Grammar that is. I think
I'm pretty up to speed on art history, but please don't challenge me. It's not a contest anyways. Is it?

jim draper said...

I think you were right the first time,
Lotion is good skin problem.
Smooth skin is a good problem to have, for sure.
Well, everyone seems to agree that
there is a significant shortage of local exhibition venues. I have a
great one, but can't afford the time or money to put up shows, but I
put it out there to hear some
proposals got some that sound like they may work, hope to
put out a schedule within the next
couple of weeks. Thanks to all who passed the word. With all of these
spaces coming up things will change fairly rapidly. When is the space on Beaver Street opening?

kurt polkey said...

I've come to the understanding that MOCA doesn't owe us anything. Except maybe for some good exhibitions, which I think they are doing. Since the name change the shows are getting better and better. That said I've had my gripes, but mostly out of frustration from the whole scene. I've also whined about J. Johnson, but I guess they don't owe me anything either. I'm assuming it's hard to run a museum so I'm going to give George the benefit of the doubt.
Now about the art and or artists. I know of a handful of artists who are doing anything remotely close to what I've seen in NYC or even Miami. I challenge those of you out there who are doing all the complaining to go see some "real" contemporary art, then come back to good ol' J-Ville sit in front of your blank canvas and ask yourself some questions. The more I've seen the less I tend to complain, because I think the artists around here (including me) are really lacking. We give the writers and the collectors and I use those terms loosely, nothing to write about or collect.
So painters, sculptors, video and intallation artists do some good art. Art that is so great that it can't be denied.

steve williams said...

that takes my breath away

madeleine said...

Kurt, I think that you've articulated a very fine point; one that touches on the humanity of people involved and one's own (active) role within a community. Because even if you disagree with the premise or presentation of a least there is thought generated.

SharlaTV said...

Madeleine, Will you contact me? I need help on getting an MFA going in the city and I saw that you spoke to George about

Roman Bradley said...

Well herein is the basic problem.
And why not exhibit work when your still developing? But I can't seem to develope fast enough, the ideas and concepts I've had in the past seem to pass by while I'm working minial jobs. I'll have some "sabatical" time to go over old things and say to myself well gee here's something I was on but then I forgot to work on a series dealing with that. Of course the developmental process to me has nothing to do with money. I eat this paint. I've got to develope this from something, in order for it to become serious. I would prefer not to show until everything is perfected. Until my development has taken it's course.

My process is different than many others, I approach things as studies, and small works using paint that I would consider maquettes or drawings. But I have little enough time to develop these things and go to a larger scale as I consider them to be smaller concepts of what a Painting would become through loss of inhibitions and the use of intuition.

Simply put there is no real culture
or professionalism that can buy me time or materials or the time I've wasted working to try to develope these concepts. I can't simply put what I'm thinking aside to perhaps make something that might sell.
Impeded by lack of space and materials of quality It'll just have to take it's time.

Am I going to be serious about this thing or not? And if I am everything must count. Whether someone on a board likes it, or I like it or I don't like it doesn't necessarily make it valuable.

Now that's just me going on about the most enjoyable part of the process.

Does my work meet the demands of the NOW? I certainly have the ability and self education to make work that would be in the now, but it's seemingly all about name developement and powerplays.
Which is fine if your ready for it.
Is this too interesting to me at this point? Not really.

So what can we do for artists who are making strong work, but not necessarily making masterpieces or work which will be promoted by the elite, who are developing? Certainly I've seen the work of local artist's everywhere and on the large part they are all the same thing. Different artists doing similar things all over the place. But what's unique? What's something I can look at and say this is some kind of development. This guy is really thinking?

I can't help but to think that I'm doing something important to me but it's going to have to be tossed. Most of it's not that good anyways. It was the development that counted to me, but I have to play a role in this political climate.

When I'm faced with such things, and I know things can get worse
I have to find a way to show what I've developed and then strip myself of the weight of my work.

It's important to work on a plan, and to recieve ideas from other communities, but It's also important to have an autonomy of thought when we consider our own artists. What will make us a unique community? How would we want to be treated if we were local, national or international artists.

While you could say that's too much work, I think it's substantially a better method to establish Jacksonville and set it apart.

Not to be afraid to be top class, polished or unpolished, raw or slick, genial and friendly.professional and straightforward. Trustworthy and trusting of those worthy of trust.

The only way to assert ourselves
as something to come and look at is to be the best and cultivate unique works of quality and at the same time provide some freedom and liquidity to our humble market.

Mark Creegan said...

Yes Roman, I like your idea of stripping oneself of the weight of previous work. that is actually, to me, the ideal state to be in for an artist-- To always be somewhat dissatisfied with ones work and to keep searching. Once I feel I have reached some pinnacle I am dead in the water. Game over. Art is a process of exploration where the goal is never attained. Or really the process is itself the goal.

Which leads us to your other point: The fact that it is difficult if not impossible to keep pushing oneself thru these ideas while catering to our particular local market. So the question becomes do we conform to the normal, established circuits of capital or do we make strides at changing that market?

I vote for the later.

I remember very much liking your paintings at the Opaq show Roman. I hope to see more soon! And yes we all need to to measure our work not just against each other, but ESPECIALLY and more importantly against the work we see at the Miami fairs, in NY, LA, Chicago, Berlin, etc. I find by measuring my ideas with the outside I gain two important things: Confidence when i see i am on par with this other work AND a healthy kick in the pants when i see it is not.

madeleine said...

I agree, too often I think as art-makers we’ve been weaned on art historical legends and thus are preparing not for thought provoking shows, but for our own infamy. This causes a dearth of self-editing as creating with one eye on the art history books inevitably results in static, self-satisfied work.